abide: Red Letter Challenge

Lent is a season for repentance; a time to account for one’s sins. So a confession…

I have not made it all the way through The Big Lebowski. I don’t really know why I haven’t. It seems like a movie I’d get into. Great actors. A cult following. Dark humor. Bowling (that’s my personal bowling ball at eth top of the post). Alas, I’ve watched maybe the first 30 minutes.

So, while I do not know the whole of the story, I do know, “The Dude abides.”

It’s kind of a strange thing to say, don’t you think? To say someone, The Dude or otherwise, abides. What is that even supposed to mean? In the movie, I think it’s a kind of mantra for whatever craziness happens, The Dude will just keep on keeping on.

Is this what Jesus means we he asks his followers to “abide” in him?

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version)

Other versions translate “abide” as “remain.” Remain in me. Remain in my love. Remain…stay…do not leave or become disconnected…abide.

Vines and branches and fruit, what an interesting way to describe a life lived in and with Christ. I can totally imagine part of the plant (me) withering because it does not stay connected to the source of life giving nutrients running through the plant.

No matter what, The Dude abides. The Dude rolls with the punches. The Dude gets knocked down and gets up again. The Dude continues being the The Dude. The Dude relies on an unshakable center. The Dude abides.

What about me?

The Big Lebowski is not some allegory describing the Christian life. I mean, I do not think the abiding The Dude practices is exactly what we are after here. Abiding for The Dude doesn’t extend beyond himself, and here is the difference that makes all the difference.

Jesus says, “abide in me.” As Jesus abides in God, we are to abide in him. The invitation is not to abide in one’s self, but rather to abide in Jesus’ love. How else can we travel the barren wastes of Lent and our own brokenness? What other hop do we have when facing our own self-centeredness? Try to go it on you own, I hear Jesus whisper, and you will shrivel and wither and die. Instead, abide in me and let me nourish you and protect you and make your life fruitful. As the passage ends, that we might have Jesus’ joy in us and that our joy would be complete. I like the sound of being filled with joy much more than withering.

The Dude may abide, but the abiding Jesus points towards is more. I want the more. I want the love and the joy and the life. Now, I just have to figure out how to remain/abide in Jesus instead of throwing the bowling ball of my life toward the gutter. I have a feeling it has something to do with spending time with Jesus. How many pins do you think he’ll spot me? I’m going to go out on a limb/vine and bet it’s all of them.

Life is better together,
Shawn

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